The Paipo (pronounced pie-po), a member of the family of ancient Hawaiian surfboards like the alaia and olo, is experiencing a resurgence and finding a place back in the lineup. The small, flat, wooden bellyboards have become so popular that The Paipo Society decided to create a summer gathering.
Over 75 stoked people attended the inaugural Paipo Stokefest, which took place on July 29, 2012 at Scripps Pier in La Jolla. Besides having plenty of paipos to test ride (thanks to Encinitas shapers Jon Wegener of Wegener Surfboards and Christine Brailsford of Whomp), it included other prone surfing craft such as handplanes, mats, alaias, and basically anything that can be propelled by a pair of swimfins. The surf conditions were unexpectedly ideal (and just after a long So Cal flat spell)–clean shoulder-to-head-high waves.
“Everyone was smiling and hooting. The day really lived up to its name,” said Glenn Sakamoto, Stokefest organizer and founder of The Paipo Society. “I’m really happy with the number of people that turned out.” From young groms to veteran surfers, there were appearances by longtime San Diego shaper Steve Pendarvis, surf legend Linda Benson, former pro skateboarder Henry Hester, and JP St. Pierre of Surfy Surfy. He added, “We had delicious food from Daphne’s California Greek and a raffle with giveaways from Viper and Churchill Swimfins, and Sun Bum skincare. People have already been asking me, ‘When’s the next one?’”
For Ed Lewis, who supplied his *Enjoy handplanes for the Stokefest, there’s no better place than the ocean to bring people together. “These gatherings never cease to amaze me,” he said. “Instead of horns and score cards, you get stoked people swimming around with everything from an ironing board to a pool blow up toy and everything in between. There are no rules, and that freedom brings out the kid in you. It’s unbelievable; it’s like a much needed shot of soul into the arm of an industry that both invented soul and very nearly squashed it. Here’s to The Paipo Society for stepping up and showing us a great time. I can’t wait to do it again!”
JP St. Pierre, owner of Surfy Surfy in Leucadia, added “I’ll tell you what, it was one of the more stokey events I’ve been too. A super nice group of people and the weirdest collection of surf craft since the first Fish Frye. I even got to try one of those Jon Wegener Bluegill alaia/surfboard hybrids. It was pretty intriguing.”
Unlike a standard bodyboard made overseas from extruded foam and plastic, the paipo is handmade by surf craft shapers from a sustainable and saltwater resistant species of wood that offers neutral bouyancy, durability, and an incredible amount of speed and glide.
Encinitas surfboard shaper Jon Wegener said the best thing about the paipos is the excitement of the ride. “They are pretty much friction-free and you can get a lot of speed with them,“ he said. “These boards may seem historical and fairly simplistic, but their functionality overrides everything else.”
Shawn Parkin, surfer and the recent recipient of Surfing Magazine’s “Follow The Light” Larry Flame Moore photography award, said about the paipo “I enjoy the fact that I can go really fast on small and mediocre waves – the thing absolutely flies! You can set the edge and it just takes off down the line. Being that close to the water and going at that speed is just super fun. It’s definitely a really cool thing.”